The sun was shining quite brightly when the first Eurostar from London pulled into Paris on Saturday morning, but the early arrivals for the 100th Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday afternoon must have packed the British weather in their suitcases, as cloud and drizzle arrived not long afterwards and the rain has barely let up since.
Arc day itself has dawned under a leaden sky, and 15mm of rain overnight – in a total of 23mm in the last 24 hours – has seen the ground at Longchamp ease to holding with a penetrometer reading of 4.2. What that actually means in practice can vary a little from track to track, but you will struggle to find a historic reading of 4.2 anywhere in Britain which the clerk of the course did not call “heavy”.
The ground at Longchamp was still good this time last weekend, so much so that Hurricane Lane, the St Leger winner, was far from certain to make the line-up. Seven days later, he could well set off as favourite, with James Doyle aiming to win the Arc for the first time on the horse which Charlie Appleby’s stable jockey, William Buick, rejected.
The one he picked, the Derby winner Adayar, is still the narrow favourite this morning, but only a fraction of a point in front of his stable companion, with Tarnawa and Snowfall just a couple of points further back in the betting. With Chrono Genesis, the best middle-distance horse in Japan, and Alenquer, a proven performer on testing ground, also attracting support, there now six runners at 14-1 or shorter for what is undoubtedly one of the strongest and most eagerly-anticipated runnings of the Arc for many years.
The good news is that a decent strip of fresh ground has been saved for this afternoon’s racing, although three races – including a contest for pure-bred Arabian horses that no-one bar the Qatari sponsors really gives two hoots about – will be run over the track before the Arc itself. The big-race field is now down to 14, meanwhile, after Love, last year’s Oaks winner, was withdrawn on Saturday evening after being found to have a temperature.
Raclette, probably the best two-year-old filly in France, heads the field for the Prix Marcel Boussac at 1.15, Hugo Palmer’s Ebro River heads the market for Jean-Luc Lagardere at 1.50 and the Arc itself is due off at 3.05. The Group One action then continues with the Prix de l’Opera (3.50), Prix de l’Abbaye (4.25) and Prix de la Foret (5.00), and you can follow all the news, results and rainfall gauge readings here as the afternoon unfolds.